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The road to recovery: Rebuilding the transport sector after a disaster

Melody Benavidez's picture
Transport and disaster recovery

In the Paradise, California fires of November 2018, a range of factors coalesced leaving 86 people dead and over 13,900 homes destroyed. Fueling the fires were gale-force winds that when combined with the area’s institutional and infrastructural challenges led to one of the deadliest fires in California history.

When Paradise was developed, the road network was built to maximize buildable space for homes. However, as the Paradise fires demonstrated, in the event of a large-scale disaster, the road network inhibited community-wide evacuation. Paradise featured nearly 100 miles of private roads that dead-ended on narrow overlooks with few connector streets. As wind rapidly accelerated the fire throughout the community, residents trying to flee found themselves on roads paralyzed by traffic for hours on end. Evacuation routes turned into fire traps. Local officials went on to say that the miracle of the tragedy was how many people escaped.

The Paradise example demonstrates the importance of transport networks for allowing swift evacuation during the response phase, and also hints at how important effective recovery of the transport network will be in Paradise, California. In the aftermath of any significant disaster event, it is the roads, railways and ports that underpin the restoration of economic activity and the reconstruction of critical infrastructure after a disaster. In the aftermath of devastating floods, earthquakes, landslides, or typhoons, roads may be rendered unusable, making it more expensive to transport goods and services as well as preventing people from earning income. As such, having multiple ways to get from point A to point B, by modality and by route, is critical to continued connectivity. The recovery phase can be the impetus to reexamine vulnerable links in the transport network and address those deficiencies to help reduce future risks and strengthen the economic and physical resilience of people and infrastructure assets.

The ticket to a better ride: How can Automated Fare Collection improve urban transport?

Leonardo Canon Rubiano's picture
Photo: Emily Jackson/Flickr
In both developed and developing countries, a growing number of cities are relying on automated systems to collect public transport fares and verify payment. Far from being a gimmick, Automated Fare Collection (AFC) can bring a wide range of benefits to local governments, transport planners, operators—and, of course, to commuters themselves.

The recent Transforming Transportation 2019 conference paid a great deal of attention to the applications and benefits of AFC, which have been at the heart of many World Bank and IFC-supported urban mobility projects.

For users, the development of AFC is a critical step toward making public transport more efficient, affordable, and accessible. The keywords here are integration and interoperability. AFC systems are now becoming compatible with an ever-increasing number of payment methods besides smart cards —near-field communication devices (including smartphones), debit and credit cards, e-commerce platforms (e.g PayPal, AliPay), and even printed QR codes and SMS, opening the way for integration with other transport services such as bikeshare schemes, paratransit, or even carpooling services.

Efficient public transport starts with strong institutions

Sofía Guerrero Gámez's picture
Also available in: Español
Photo: Max Souffriau/Flickr
Over 10 million people now live in the Lima Metropolitan Area, equivalent to about 1/3 of Peru’s total population. As the number of residents and private vehicles continues to rise, getting around this sprawling metropolis is proving increasingly difficult.
 
In fact, Lima’s commuters waste an average 20 days a year due to congestion. Traffic also takes a serious toll on quality of life and the environment. Most importantly, the yearly rate of road fatalities has reached 14 per 100,000 people across Peru, with most instances concentrated in urban areas.
 
The city’s transport woes have been exacerbated by the lack of efficient public transport, which drastically undermines access to jobs and essential services like health or education—especially for the poor—and eats away more than 1.5% of the local GDP.
 
So how can we tackle this and keep Lima moving? As mentioned in one of our previous articles, cities that are striving to build adequate and reliable public transport systems must consider multiple factors simultaneously.  
 
Today, let’s take a closer look at the role of institutions—perhaps one of the most critical pieces of the urban transport puzzle.

Revolutionizing mobility through blockchain

Photo: Plamenj/Flickr

As digital technology continues to transform and reshape the transportation industry over the last few years, blockchain as a decentralized distributed technology has been embraced by other fields through various applications. It has found varied applications across banking, financial services, healthcare, e-governance, and voting.

Blockchain has immense potential to solve the most pressing problems of mobility where it can be used by private & public sector to securely share and integrate data across modes of transport. It paves  the path for transforming Mobility as a Service (or MaaS), where a user may access different modes of transport (three-wheelers, bus, metro, train etc.) on a single platform with seamless connectivity. It makes a paradigm shift in redefining the customer needs in terms of service, rather than the mode of transport.

The applications of blockchain in reducing the cost of financial transactions have been implemented across sectors. In India, 80% of our travel is for distances less than 5 km and most of this is through non-motorized modes of transport which may largely be served by walking, bicycle, and cycle rickshaws. In these modes the, transaction size for every ride is small (or nil). Also, people in urban and semi-urban areas tend to use multiple modes of transport to reach their destinations. In this case, it makes sense for using digital payments that are integrated across all modes of transport. But the payment systems of today charge a transaction fee of between 0.5% to 5%. This hampers the faster uptake of digital payments, especially for smaller transactions. Blockchain greatly reduces the cost per transaction as there are no intermediaries involved in the payment system, thus making small transactions of even 1 or 2 Indian rupees ($0.014 to $0.028) digitally feasible.

Sustainable Mobility for All: Changing the mindset, changing policies

Nancy Vandycke's picture
Photo: Photoviriya/Shutterstock
The global conversation on transport and mobility has evolved significantly over the past five years. Take transport and climate, for instance: although data on the carbon footprint of major transport modes had been available for a long time, it was not until COP21 in 2015 that mobility became a central part of the climate agenda. The good news is that, during that same period, the space of solutions expanded as well.  For example, data sharing is now viewed as an obvious way to promote better integration between urban transport modes in cities.

In that context, the task at hand for the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative (SuM4All) was clear: How can we work with decision-makers and the international community to transform the conversation, harness the full potential of these emerging solutions, and take on the world’s most pressing mobility issues?

To tackle these challenges, the initiative decided to focus on three essential steps.

How do we help cities breathe better? Introducing the Clean Bus Project

Kavita Sethi's picture
Buses, cyclist, and car traffic in Santiago de Chile. Photo: Claudio Olivares Medina/Flickr
Earlier this month, Santiago de Chile took delivery of 100 brand-new electric buses. The event was a first in the region, and impressive images of the state-of-the-art buses driving in convoy toward their new home in Chile’s capital city were shared by global media. These buses are part of a broader effort to tackle smog and revolutionize the city’s public transport system. By 2022, Chile aims to increase the number of electric vehicles in the country tenfold, which would put it in the vanguard of clean mobility in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and amongst developing countries worldwide. These changes are expected to help the country meet its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) target, set in the wake of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The target calls for a 30% reduction in GHG emissions per unit of GDP by 2030, with transportation being one of the main sectors for mitigation.

The story of Santiago, however, remains an exception in the region. Though Latin American countries, as signatories to the Paris Agreement, have signaled their concrete intention to embrace a low-carbon future, the transition to low and zero-emissions vehicles has been slow. To better understand the challenges in accelerating the adoption of clean technologies in LAC, the World Bank has recently implemented the Clean Bus project, funded by the NDC Support Facility, a contribution to the NDC Partnership.

Improving women’s mobility: it’s not just about the quality of buses

Karla Dominguez Gonzalez's picture
A young woman waits at a bus terminal in Brazil. Photo: WRI Brasil/Flickr
The global transport conversation increasingly recognizes that men and women have different mobility patterns, and that this reality should be reflected into the design of transport projects. In general, women engage in more non-work-related travel such as to run household errands and are more likely to travel with children and elders. Therefore, but not exclusively because of that, they travel shorter distances and within a more restricted geographical area; make more (multi-stop) trips, and rely more on public transport. Women also travel at lower speeds and spend a higher percentage of income in transport than men, limiting their access to certain employment areas. There are exceptions, however, as studies have shown that in some cities, like Mumbai, women follow mobility patterns that more closely resemble men’s, making longer trips during peak hours, directly from point to point.
 
Key variables like affordability, availability, and accessibility play a big part in this phenomenon. But are there other factors shaping women’s decision to travel in the first place? Current evidence on women’s mobility has focused on diagnosing differences in travel behavior or on characteristics of transport systems that affect women and men’s mobility differently. Less attention has been given to individual, social, cultural and relational factors shaping women’s travel behaviors and decisions. The desire to dig deeper on this motivated a forthcoming study on Women’s mobility in LAC cities, prepared under the auspices of the Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality.

Moving toward green mobility: three countries, three different paths

Nancy Vandycke's picture
A local bus in Luxembourg. Photo: Fränz Bous/Flickr
As discussions concluded at COP24, countries still struggle to translate their climate commitments into effective and socially acceptable actions. This sense of stagnation is particularly evident in transport. With 23% of energy-related GHG emissions coming from the sector, transitioning to greener mobility will be crucial to the overall success of the climate agenda. Yet the world remains largely reliant on fossil fuels to move people and goods from A to B. As shown in Sustainable Mobility for All’s Global Roadmap of Action, there are multiple policy options that could help countries move the needle on green mobility, each with their own fiscal and political costs. To illustrate this, let’s look at three countries that did take concrete measures to cut carbon emissions from transport but opted for three different options: France, Luxembourg, and Norway.
 
What these countries have in common
 
These three countries all have a high level of income, which means the majority of their residents can afford to buy and own a car. The governments of these countries have also invested heavily into road and rail systems—including France’s transformative high-speed railway network. This effort has significantly increased the number of people who have access to fast and reliable transport, and helped bridge the social divide between urban and rural areas.
 
But “universal access” is only one of the four policy goals to achieve sustainable mobility: efficiency, safety, and green mobility are equally important.  Now that the infrastructure is in place, and carbon-intensive cars and trucks are on the roads, the challenge for policy-makers is to figure out how we can reach these three other goals in a world where individual mobility has become a new “social right”.  In other words, which policies will be most effective for reducing the environmental footprint of the current mobility system (GHG emissions, noise, and air pollution)?

Building safer roads through better design and better contracts

Pratap Tvgssshrk's picture
Photo: Simply CVR/Flickr
As part of the World Bank’s continued commitment to road safety, all Bank-financed road projects must now include specific measures to enhance safety standards and protect all road users—motorists, two-wheelers, pedestrians.
 
In that context. our ongoing road sector project in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu shows how relatively simple and affordable design improvements can make roads significantly safer, and bring other important benefits such as enhanced drainage and water conservation.
 
To illustrate this, let’s take a look at 10 key design features that have been included in the project.

Our infrastructure projects can help build many things—including stronger institutions

Pratap Tvgssshrk's picture
Photo: Frederick Noronha/Flickr
Working to finance major infrastructure projects, World Bank teams have seen time and again that the sustainability of investments depends ultimately on the efficiency and capacity of the agencies that manage them. 
 
For that reason, our interventions often have a dual goal: supporting high quality infrastructure, and, at the same time, supporting institutions’ efforts to modernize and become more efficient. That institutional development sometimes comes in the form of stand-alone project components that focus on modernizing processes, governance, and skills. But in other cases, infrastructure investment projects can also provide opportunities to initiate important institutional changes.
 
This is often the case with civil works contracts, and the Tamil Nadu State Road Sector project in India is illustrative of how contracting strategies implemented with Bank support helped a highway agency enhance its implementation capacity, the efficiency of its expenditure, quality of infrastructure, and system sustainability through significantly improved asset management.

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